MIF17 was thrilled to present the world premiere of Last and First Men, an extraordinary new multimedia work by Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049). Last and First Men combined music, film and Tilda Swinton’s elegiac narration into a poetic meditation on memory, loss and the idea of Utopia. For this world exclusive, the BBC Philharmonic performed Jóhannsson’s score live with the film at The Bridgewater Hall.
Based on the cult novel by British science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men blurred the boundary between fiction and documentary. The work set images of a futuristic yet decaying monumental landscape, beautifully filmed in 16mm black and white in the former Yugoslav republics, against Swinton’s narration and Jóhannsson’s mesmerising orchestral soundtrack. The result was a breathtaking requiem for the final human species in civilisation, seen and heard first at MIF17.
‘A breath-taking requiem for the final human species in civilisation, majestically put together over seven years by a composer who is destined for sheer greatness’ Manchester Evening News
‘Beautifully performed by the BBC Philharmonic under Daniel Bjarnason’s direction, with the composer playing keyboards and two vocal soloists (Else Torp, Kate Macoboy) intertwining mournfully’ The Times
Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, the Barbican Centre and Sydney Opera House. Produced by Manchester International Festival and the BBC Philharmonic. Film co-produced by Flanders Festival Kortrijk with the support of Gone West, Province of West Flanders. Photo: Jóhann Jóhannsson in Berlin, Germany, January 2017 © Donald Christie